Inspirational land and environment defender visits Essex Law School

  • Date

    Mon 5 Feb 24

Phyllis Omido (front left) with Law Clinic Director Liz  Fisher-Frank and Essex students behind

Renowned land and environment defender Phyllis Omido made a special visit to Essex to inspire the next generation of law students and activists.

Phyllis, who won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her outstanding work protecting the people of Owino Uhuru, Kenya, was given a tour of our Colchester Campus during her visit, before hosting a guest lecture.

Students volunteering for Essex Law Clinic also got a fascinating insight into Phyllis’s journey and campaigning during a Q&A session.

Essex Law School’s Dr Stephen Turner, who helped organise the visit, said: “It was a real honour for us to host Phyllis Omido’s visit to the University.

“One of the highlights of Phyllis’ visit was the talk that she gave for students and staff in which she explained the challenges that she and her organisation face and the approaches that they take to advocate effectively and successfully.”

Phyllis successfully campaigned for the closure of a smelting factory in Owino Uhuru, which was exposing locals to harmful levels of lead.

Despite providing clear evidence of lead poisoning among the community, Phyllis’s concerns were ignored and even exposed her to mistreatment from the authorities, including arrest from the police.

The factory eventually closed in 2014, but it took another six years of campaigning before a court ruled the firm which ran the factory should pay just over £9million in compensation to the people of Owino Uhuru.

It also ruled the Kenyan Government should lead a clean-up operation to remove as much lead as possible.

Dr Turner added: “As a land and environment defender in Kenya, Phyllis has demonstrated huge courage, commitment and resilience to prevail in the challenge to have lead smelter works closed down.

“The pollution from those plants were causing fatalities and illness amongst communities.

“Phyllis truly is an inspiration to us all.”

Phyllis has also won the Ethecon Blue Planet Award 2020 for her campaign work, and was named in the BBC’s 100 most influential women in in the same year.